About this Show

Book TV

Robert Merry Education. (2012) Robert Merry ('Where They Stand The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians'). New.

NETWORK

DURATION
01:00:00

RATING

SCANNED IN
San Francisco, CA, USA

SOURCE
Comcast Cable

TUNER
Channel 121 (777 MHz)

VIDEO CODEC
mpeg2video

AUDIO CODEC
ac3

PIXEL WIDTH
704

PIXEL HEIGHT
480

TOPIC FREQUENCY

Cleveland 10, Wilson 9, Washington 7, Jackson 6, Grover 5, John Adams 5, America 5, U.s. 4, Johnson 4, Woodrow Wilson 4, George W. Bush 3, William Jennings Bryan 3, Harry Truman 3, Berlin 3, Us 3, Jefferson 2, Paris 2, Bill Clinton 2, Warren G. Harding 2, Obama 2,
Borrow a DVD
of this show
  CSPAN    Book TV    Robert Merry  Education.  (2012) Robert Merry ('Where They  
   Stand The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and...  

    July 22, 2012
    8:00 - 9:00pm EDT  

8:00pm
reflect the structure of our opportunities. two more questions. you pick them. [laughter] ..
8:01pm
[applause] >> i like and what he has tried to do. at think he was still the worth -- were stand any president says frank van roosevelt. to wars. we had an economy in free fall, a financial system that was cratering. and he did a pretty steady job. people say he is to com. well, you needed somebody called in those months. he did a pretty good job. you can argue that the stimulus should have been bigger.
8:02pm
i suppose i would argue that he should have done public financing in the first two months he was in office, which was before citizens united. i think he has reset all literally, our foreign policy. i think hillary clinton has done a great job as secretary of state, and i think that we now are part of the world community again, not lone rangers. and i think he still has the capacity to touch our spirits. so i think that is the end of the second question. [applause] thank you very much. i'm. >> for more information visit the authors website. bill bradley dot com. coming up author robert murray
8:03pm
examines how u.s. presidents are ranked in the eyes of historians and the populace. the author places the presidents and groups to better understand the places in history from leaders a destiny to a split decision presidents who had a better first and that second and other -- other failures. this is about our. [applause] >> thank you. i have to say that it is always a great pleasure to be here at politics and prose. have done this on more than one occasion. i consider this place to be a literary cathedral in washington, so it is a pleasure to be here. i will say that i am very pleased to see so many people here, although it gave me just a moment of nervousness because it looks like dow was not trying to be able to find a parking place. i get kind of nervous weather would be here on time. it is an honor to be here. i feel a little devalued to learn that in a three and in 65
8:04pm
the year there are four ordered 75 such events and politics and prose. my book really began with a phone call in early 2010 from an editor in the new york times op-ed page. he wanted to know whether i wanted to doom the peace in the op-ed page on a statement that obama made to diane sawyer shortly before that in which he was responding to being chided a little bit by her on the basis of some of the apparent on popularity. he said, i would rather be a really good 1-term president than a mediocre 2-term president. and wanted to know if i may be wanted to write a piece about some of our really good 1-term presidents says i had just recently come out with a history of the presidency of james capel generally considered by historians to be the greatest of our one-term presidents.
8:05pm
i'm very interested in writing a piece without like to take a different tack and compare history's judgment with the contemporary judgment of the electorate, something that i had given some thought to. i thought that you got to the heart of what obama had to say and what occurred to me was is somewhat remarkable statement for president to make. but he was saying was he was willing to accept on popularity even to the point of voter rejection in favor of the esteem of history. my question of want to pursue in the op ed piece was how realistic the says. so i look at history's judgment. as you heard, history's judgment is generally considered to be the judgment of the historians and the polls. the puli took in life magazine started great deal of interest
8:06pm
showing that the american people have a real fascination and affection for the presidency. there is a body of literature that has grown up as a result of those polls over time, and so there is a generally recognized consensus on the part of historians. plenty of discussion about where so and so belongs, john adams, grover cleveland. i'll talk to about the them momentarily. i want to compare that with the contemporary. how you assess that. a president who is a 2-term president is obviously receiving higher esteem on the part of the electorate and a 1-term president. a 2-term president who is succeeded by his own party, meaning that he had two terms that were judged by the voters to be worthy of retention on the part of the party is another index of significance. what about midterm elections, the fate of the party, the incumbent party in the
8:07pm
congressional alexian's matane. will we see is a very large correlation in which the assessment of history tracks largely in most instances with the assessment of the voters. in other words, he'll a president to is rejected by the voters, and seldom does history the bunch of presidents who was hailed based on my indices by the voters. so the question posed by obama was, can he set himself above the electorate to such an extent that he gets tossed out by the electorate and still get high praise from the historians. what i wrote was that it is almost no chance. it just does not work their way. generally speaking. but there are some interesting and intriguing exceptions. so having written that piece i thought, well, i would like to explore these perceptions.
8:08pm
perhaps this might be possible through this matrix of the historians burdick to, the voters' verdict, comparing to look at the presidency in terms of how presidents succeed and fail and have the presidency works, how we ss presidents through history. and i was reminded of one of my favorite quotes from mark twain, among many, difference of opinion and make sources. what occurred to me about that was, i really thought that was applicable year except for one significant thing. in horserace is the difference of opinion ends of the finish line. in the white house there is no finish line. we can talk about this and asleep which is why i want to get through these remarks of the we can get to questions and discussion. so let me begin with the disparities, and there are some examples that i will bring up and and talk about. maybe some in the question and answer.
8:09pm
presidents that the voters liked and historians considered in a negative light. grant, harding, coolidge. we could also include in that i can reagan because i, especially eisenhower and reagan, but eisenhower came in immediately after his presidency after the second pole, 1962. that terrible rating. he was down there with chet arthur. [laughter] the first johnson, andrew johnson. said arthur who was a nonentity and andrew johnson lost control of the government and the country he was supposed to lead. i thought that was remarkable that historians would put eisenhower there. almost immediately he began to rise up and he is now consistently in the near great category. reagan also initially was down there. he also was right next door to
8:10pm
check arthur. he is moving up, but he has not reached the level except in the most recent poll in 2005 by the "wall street journal". so what about the precedents that history likes, the voters and not care. well, one that i really have to talk about, maybe stir up some energy, wilson. the voters could not wait to get rid of that guy. cleveland is an interesting case in point. john adams. harry truman. a fascinating case in point, and he coming to me, sort of personifies a significant element of this whole thing in terms of how the voters judge the presidents and held the historians judge the presidents. totally different. historians look at a president's full tenure in office, one of the mib.
8:11pm
to turn someone term, partial term, and then look at what he has accomplished and say good and not so good. terrible. whenever. rate accordingly. the voters look at their president as they are invited to by the constitution in four year increments. you, we all have -- we have hiring and firing authority of these guys. we take it very seriously. that is why we judge them exclusively on 4-year increments . then without much sentimentality we just move on. so let's look at the presidents that consistently have been considered the nine grades or near greats by the story ends. and there is a pretty much consensus. number one, lincoln, washington, and fd are almost always in that order. in jefferson, jackson, pulp, roosevelt, wilson, and german.
8:12pm
now, interesting, they are all too termers except for pulp. he really is the exception that proves the rule, if there is such a thing because he is the only president who never ran on a one-term promise. ascendency get the nomination he tell the american people if, elected will only serve one term, and he kept that promise. no one else has done that. so got reelected. all but two of those were succeeded by their own party which, as i say, i believe is the highest electoral assessments. history and the electorate are in sync. look at those judged by history to be presidential feathers. there is a pretty strong consensus to the bottom. buchanan, my least favorite president. i think he was a man of very low character. pierce, and drink too much.
8:13pm
and he was not much better than buchanan. andrew johnson lost control of the government. you cannot govern if he cannot control. fillmore. i'm not sure i necessary plate and fill more should be in a total failure category. warren g. harding and then, of course, senses departure from the white house, richard nixon, who raises a very interesting point which i not going to get into here. maybe in a q&a about all we do about a president who is so ignominiously humiliated and yet accomplished some very significant things before all that happened. another guy in that category, with to a lesser extent is london johnson who have massive accomplishments and and then basically brought himself down through his vietnam. so let's talk about grants.
8:14pm
they seem to have lost my place to. all of these guys that are the so-called villiers are 1-termers except for nixon. and except for the one a liar. ulysses s. grant. grant is considered a failure although he is rising in the estimation of history. it gets a little complicated. he was succeeded by his own party in 1876. only as a result of corrupt manipulation. the republicans are able to do that because they had occupied the south. grant's first term was a clear
8:15pm
success, not a huge success. inevitably a success. the voters said no particular reason. a second term, however, was characterized by nasa's -- nasty financial scandals including very close friends of the president did not seem to taken as seriously as he should have. a significant economic downturn that he did not seek to attack because it was not his philosophy. his second term is much less successful and the republicans should have lost and probably would have lost had it not been for those manipulations. i don't quite see how you can judge grant to be a failure. it's interesting, very prodigious scholar of our time, presidential among other times, has written in the new york times op-ed, and he is rising
8:16pm
and thinks he will continue. with the panic to harry truman and the point i was making earlier about the differences between how the voters assess presidents and historians assess presidents. you have to love harry truman. a simple guy that made such simple, strong decisions. he cut away all of the chaff. as i say, history regarded him almost from the very beginning to my the first poll after his presidency he was in the near great category. the voters retired fm. he had in his last full year of office in a gallup approval rating of 19 -- 22%. i don't think any president has come near. maybe george w. bush. how do we square this? they immediately put this guy in
8:17pm
near grade category where as the voters are essentially saying he is eligible for rehire. his overall record which was highly successful. i would describe it as heroic. he made the agonizing decision to drop the atomic bomb. same million american lives. he presided over america's role in fostering the united nations. he was the president under containment which saved western europe from soviet westernism poised with 1 million troops. he fostered the marshall plan. he brought about the national security act of 1947 that created the defense department and the cia and other things. he successfully made the transition from a wartime economy to a peacetime economy, and he made the momentous decision to read about how he
8:18pm
made the decision when all his advisers said, you cannot say berlin. you will have to give up on berlin. he made the decision for the berlin airlift. absolutely wrote. everything had described happened in his first term. his second term was really quite mediocre. he did not manage to maintain what i call longevity of success which is, a frothy record, and from the performance throughout a float -- eight full years or average i have. he had a couple of notable achievements. nato was in his second term. the korean war under macarthur was in his second term, but he had a sputtering economy for about the entire four years. he ended up with a stalemated war that could not win or get out of, which is political poison for any sitting president there were a series of scandals involving his presidential cronies that he brought to washington from kansas city who he put in significant positions in the white house and around
8:19pm
the government that they were really not qualified for and that they abused their offices in. and one could argue that he brought about -- he invited the korean war to some extend to by letting nation's and the military's car down. the voters the democratic party essentially signal to him that there wasn't any point in trying to get the nomination. the democrats were tossed out in 1952 when eisenhower came and. so in my view history and the voters both had it right even though they're looking at this president's three totally different perspectives. let me give a couple of examples when history was, perhaps too much too generous. this is all subjects to mark twain's dictum about difference of opinion. john adams and grover cleveland. grover cleveland is my greatest example. in the first academic poll that happened in 1948 cleveland was
8:20pm
ranked eighth. john adams was ranked ninth. cleveland, as we all know, we don't know much about cleveland. i didn't before i started this. to be honest with you, i still don't, but i know enough to talk about it a little bit. what we know about him, he is the only president to serve to nine consecutive terms. less known as the fact that after each of those terms his party was tossed out of the white house. the first time was him on the ticket, and the second time after is party have basically said we don't want you on the ticket voters still tossed out the democrats under william jennings bryan and broaden william mckinley. so he representative -- he is the only two-time one-term presidents ira street. so my question is, how on the world, if you think that voters are not totally stupid, helen
8:21pm
the world can he considered number eight? i didn't think he should be down there in 27, but eight seemed a little rich. so let's look at it. his first defeat in 1888, he won the popular vote. he lost the electoral college. his first term was a decent but not exemplary chairman. the interstate commerce act was passed. and it was an important piece of legislation. interestingly cleave and it did not identify herself with that. he did not get credit for it. solid economic growth at the time. he curve to the abuses in civil war pension disability program. but he presided over extensive labor unrest during his time that led to a lot of demonstrations, riots, and deaths y'all lot of bloodshed,
8:22pm
said defeat loss of lice, and some of in property damage. just like an intractable war the present american out of, but in the streets is a political poison for a sitting president. he also failed to reduce tariffs . his fate was written in that record. second term, characterized purposes of the economic downturn, a sense of banco your stomach corporate bankruptcy, devastation in the foreign sector, and a kind of inner response on the part of the president. so i would say that overall his record is middling at best and the voters narrowly get it right. maybe historians or a little bit off the mark, one. now, why was the eighth? data will no. historians can be influenced by various banks. a few years before that in 19481 of the premier historians of his
8:23pm
time wrote a 2-volume biography, grover cleveland called grover cleveland, a study encourage, two volumes. more than you really want to read about the guy. my next project is actually the 1890's, william mckinley. i will have to read both of these volumes commanderies sure that i am looking forward to it. ellen evans is a beautiful writer, so i'm sure it's going to be a wonderful book. a wonderful biography. so, i think that probably the influence of allan nevins of his colleagues and clients that. cleveland has trickled down, but he is still rather high, often 12, 13, 14. this time on john adams, obviously a great man, a great patriot, a great contributor to our nation's birth as we all know from david mccullough and
8:24pm
that wonderful hbo miniseries. he is not a great president, and i don't think he was even a near great president. he presided over french abuse of u.s. commercial shipping that gets to be problematical. he signed -- he fostered the sedition acts which criminalize to public criticism of the government and used the sedition act to root out french emigrants that he considered potentially hostile to federalist sensibilities. i don't think i would go over very well today. a story of one quiet french bookstore owner. quietly running a bookstore in philadelphia. he ended up being singled out for deportation. he had a friend u.s. and connections in washington. he asked his friend. why me? why am i being singled out? made some inquiries and reported back to the president was quoted as saying, nothing in particular
8:25pm
, what he's too french. [laughter] he presided over massive tax increases which led the economy to begin sputtering. voters making -- it basically sent him packing. they pretty much had it right. pretty much off the mark. you're getting a seam. there is a collective judgment to monday even occasionally a collective wisdom. you don't always get it right, but they have for years to stew over it or watch it and then take another action, and that is what they do. so both have seen their ranking slipped a bit, but there are still rather high. we are on a roll here. the see if i can toss in a few more before we get to the questions. less talk about warren g. harding. considered a total failure, ranked dead last. we all recall 1920, died in office, a passive chief
8:26pm
executive. a few generally as a kind of suit of clothes whose career was fueled primarily by the fact that he looked precisely what people thought the president should look like. people when they would read about him, shake their heads, 15-year affair that he had with kill it -- terry phillips and happened to be his closest friends wife. he would snicker at the sort of vision with the starry eyed young woman, 31 years his junior generally dismissed as we can inherit. congress, all true. and finally the scandal which and rented after he died in office. nevertheless, really harm his reputation because there'll those trials of the century. the next trial of the century.
8:27pm
and so it really just eroded his standing. but arthur schlesinger jr. once wrote that he was more careless than villainess. overly protective of people he should have been watching more carefully. alice roosevelt longworth and have to capture these things said parting is not a bad man. he was just a slob. enhancing his newspaper business, unlike lyndon johnson, for example, used his rich friends to get into the television business, very lucrative, which he did under his wife's name and became very rich in the process. harding never did anything like that. that happened during his time in office. no intractable wars.
8:28pm
yet the country in suit the economic depression and then presided over an economy including a 14 percent gdp growth rate which president obama could use right now. and social unrest which had been really bluey and percolating under wilson for many reasons that i believe are attributable to some of wilson's decision making, declined rather significantly. you could say that this guy, harding, notwithstanding his weaknesses and liabilities, was elected to nullify wilson by the electorate and to fill that mandate. maybe you could argue that not such a terrible record. what is the terrible record? well, now we come to really what i'm hoping meister things up a bit here. woodrow wilson. his first term was a clear success. now we are looking at him, as the voters do.
8:29pm
but i would say of modest proportions. he enacted tariff reductions it's the democrats did in those days. he initiated reform, created the federal reserve, very significant. he brought about the antitrust act, anti monopoly legislation which was needed to man and he overcame economic difficulties that emerged in his presidency, but the overcame them before his reelection. most significantly his slogan for reelection committee kept us out of war. in reelected he promptly maneuver the country into war by manipulating it tell the issues in ways that favor great britain over germany. the secretary of state, william jennings bryan 110 that if you continue this year of a war. wilson did not listen and william jennings bryan resigned over a. i think he wanted to get into
8:30pm
the war for various reasons which we don't need to go into, but they had to do with this sort of overarching visionary views about how the world could be transformed through this particular grant view of the world. and he also very unwisely allowed himself to transform american domestic society overnight when he went to war. telegraph, telephone, and rarer nationalized. military draft, but that always happens. texas air insignificantly which happens in war, but not necessarily to the same extent. the economy. gdp. significant dissent under attorney-general palmer became of the mess. urban riots erupted, and the war never yielded what it promised. by 1920 the american people were
8:31pm
saying, we have to get rid of this guy. and then as a say, as an aside, he was a sanctimonious man. and, you know, we just don't like sanctimonious people. the sanctimonious presidents have been john quincy adams, james k. polk, quincy adams was a 1-termer. polk, a 1-termer by choice but to brought upon himself much more political difficulties during his one term in office than was needed. jimmy carter, in my view, george w. bush. i don't think that helps any of those presidents. the historians consistently have traded wilson as consistently and a great or near great category. voters, as i say, had a totally different view. so let's talk briefly about when the voters and historians converge.
8:32pm
they converge on the greatest of the great, the man i call leaders of destiny. i have three criteria for those presidents that we put into the category of leaders of destiny. they have to have -- because i believe these assessments are valid and and then of themselves there not necessarily complete. consistently high ranking on the historians polls. then consistently or high-ranking in terms of the voters. to terms. and then, a third test that i applied. president to transform the country's political landscape and set the country and in the course. this is very difficult to do. it's difficult enough to be had to turn president succeeded by your own party. only eight presidents to have been elected twice and succeeded by their own party. if recount partial terms are 12. so who are these greatest of the
8:33pm
great? there are six of them according to this criteria. well, the suspense is killing me. let's get to hear. washington in order of service, jefferson, jackson, lincoln and fdr. welcome washington said it all in motion and it it brilliantly through very deft and decision making. a marvelous contribution to his nation. jefferson obliterated the federalist effort to craft an american aristocracy and established small government ito's has a significant political sensibility in america . jackson foster the mass electorate. it was something percolating as he was emerging. the western states were ending property requirements and popularly electing the electors
8:34pm
that an elected the president. so there was -- voters were invited into the presidential election process in a way that they had not been before, and a way that hamilton and the federalists did not want them to be. jackson fostered this i created the mass electorate and galvanized it with what i call conservative populism. dominant political voice of america for 25 years. lincoln saved the union and freed the slaves. he also turned the fledging went to the fledgling republican party into an agency of industrialization. had to be controlled and monitored and directed. the republican party did that. over time, the abuses of that system emerged. teddy roosevelt was the first president brought forth the political eddy and concentrated on curbing those abuses of the industrial age. so he set the country on the course. finally, fdr save the democratic capitalism from the ravages of
8:35pm
least a part of the agonies of the great depression. and in so doing he transformed america. having done that he transformed the world. so that is quite a remarkable record. so what we -- first of all, let me do a little bit of an aside. what can we say about these people? somewhat we might call conservatives, some liberal. i think the main point to be said about these man of destiny is that the american people have fired and hired conservative presidents, liberal presidents, and they're not really ideologically formulated their thinking. there formulated on performance. that is why i believe the presidential elections come even hours that were living today, are largely referendums. and so if they are not happy with the incumbent, let's just say jimmy carter who was not
8:36pm
particularly liberal as a democrat, was a democrat and far more liberal than any republican in recent memory they would turn to the other guy even though he was considered by many to be far more conservative than the american people. there is one proviso when they do this and these referendums. it has to work. you have for years to prove that you actually succeeded, and if you don't make it that is the end of you. and of your presidency, a say. , and at cheviots are that they understood their time. a statesman may be determined and tenacious, but he is understand the character his hobby will fail. they all understood will was happening, as i mentioned about jackson. kendis to do was happening with lincoln. but he was saying was everyone else was trying to prop up this
8:37pm
divided house. lincoln cut through all that with this idiom that showed that the country had to move and a new direction. they all understood the character of their time. they all had a vision, an ability to envision the new country, the new direction that they wanted to move the nation toward. they all had this vague complex quality which i call simply political as shortness which is the ability to sort of get your hand on the livres a power. it's not designed to be easy. did your hand on the labors of power and direct them in such a way as to move the country toward that vision. all six had it. now we come to ronald reagan. he headed also. he did, in fact met transform the political landscape. he was certainly, he meets the voter test because he was a two-tier president succeeded by his own party. he's not consistently elevated in the polls, although as i
8:38pm
know, he is going up rather significantly, and i think he's probably going to get there. by my standards, my criteria, he probably will be there. so the underlying theme, the presidency is an amazing institution. its power emanates from the people who own the office, and that's what it's taken so seriously. this invests the office with considerable political force, but it also has multiple curch elements. those constituencies, very forcefully. not to be intimidated to because he speaks for the rest of the country unless the president's can force that agency into something that they have to listen to. and the results, very successful
8:39pm
. and it only emerges from the country really needs them, the country is hungry. i believe the country is in that kind of a situation right now. so i will end with two quotes from two presidents to sort of stunned -- sun this up. wilson said -- i think this is right. the president's friend interprets the national, and billy insists upon that he is irresistible. that's true. it's not that easy to do, so consider another quote from our friend. german when he was drinking with his pals up in the hill left end. president, using up there. he stared into his progress and growled, utah, the problem of of what -- the power of the presidency. i spend most of my time is in some ways as. well, those two quotes really represents how it works. i think it is a marvelous
8:40pm
institution and, as i say, it's a pleasure being here to talk about the marvelous institution. i'd be happy to take any questions. as you noted, please go to the microphone. [applause] >> think you for your talk. i can verify that everything you said is pretty much in there. my name is dave price. i am a retiree. have two questions. a very limited mentioned. more so than some of the others. was that deliberate on your part? the second question would be, given the new media which we have now to you think that will have any impact, for example, if you think of the alien and sedition act, imagine what will be done with that now.
8:41pm
abraham lincoln and may not have even become president because of his squeaky voice and his looks. so it is kind of an unfair question. your thoughts. first would-be kennedy and second would be where we go from here. >> well, kennedy, i made a judgment. i say in the book that it is really hard to assess what he could have accomplished because he did not have enough time. i was taken to task on about one reviewer noted some of his accomplishments. i actually think that i am probably right, although i felt somewhat chastised by that. a very prominent historian who suggested that. i think kennedy might have been a great president. he was not a great political shape and he was killed. we simply can't know. and so i basically put it aside as an unknowable. the nature of the new media, social media and its impact on politics, is clearly having a
8:42pm
huge impact. the paris and that i'm talking about, the historical paradigm of how politics works, how presidential elections or referendums, i don't know. i worry about death, but i would like to think not. the american people will continue to sift through and cut out the chaff and gets of the heart of things. but as i see what is happening in the media and by i am absolutely sanguine about that. >> my name is dick smith. i guess i will take your bait on woodrow wilson. i know you must know a lot more about and then i do. >> dollars race. >> i guess i would ask this.
8:43pm
despite his isolationist kind of campaign and then getting as into world war one, do you feel that there were -- was there not some positive outcome from the u.s. being in one? >> we will -- >> is what would have happened o europe had he not? >> i guess what i would say is listed a look at what happened to europe after he did do that and what happened to europe was absolutely disastrous. i believe and of historians, historians of not have debated this for a long time. and it is a legitimate point either way, but i happen to believe that wilson is getting us into the war, breaking the stalemate, based upon promises
8:44pm
that he made to all of the combatants and then being unable to preserve those promises to the point that that germans are totally humiliated. i think that basically led the way taylor. i think that if there had been initiated settlement in the first floor i think that most likely things would not have emerged a way that they did in a tragic way that they did. you can argue that that is a very tenuous connection, but my study of that indicates that that is very likely to have been what really happened. >> thank you. >> good evening. my name is sarah jane foster. another question about woodrow wilson. isn't he the one who, you know, whenever and pretty much his wife was running things.
8:45pm
what kind of affect would you say this has done historians and others reaction, their opinions and everything? >> well, we think he had two strokes. one most likely in paris during the riverside peace treaty initiation. he had another much larger stroke that came close to debilitating and while he was campaigning on behalf of the league of nations which was the only thing left from the ever sign negotiations that he sort of went there to get. he was adamant that he was going to do everything possible to get america into the league of nations. he had the stroke in the middle of that. very dramatic. something happened at that point that could not happen today. that was that the magnitude of this infirmity was kept from the american people.
8:46pm
and the people around wilson and his wife essentially managed the country without letting the country know that this is what had happened to their present. that was very unfortunate turn of events. our system. this time happen today because we have to fire actually, we have a constitutional amendment that is designed to allow for the peaceful -- temporary piece a power. >> so you're saying it probably would not have made all that much different seeing as how no one really knew that much about it? >> and he -- it was toward the end of the second term anyway. >> i caught an interesting charlie rose. a rerun panel. free with your audit. discussing various aspects of the presidency, including the issue of second term and whether
8:47pm
most presidents who served our a second term, their performance and accomplishments sort of fell down in the second term. so i would like your thoughts on that. one thing that truly puzzled me was the abraham lincoln had exception to this. it seemed to me that he serve hardly of the any second term. i don't know whether she misspoke or whether -- what she was -- i'm curious as to what she may have been getting at. >> i was asked on line the other morning, if i can think of any president his second term is actually more sterling dennis first term. i really can't come upon. adding there was a reason for that. i think that there is something that i call longevity. the president has had the greatest longevity of success. roosevelt, the only president to
8:48pm
dare run more than twice. now he cannot because of the charges second amendment, which, opposed to. but longevity of success basically means that you manage to maintain the country and run the country without some combination of economic dislocation, dislocation in the streets with demonstrations of some kind that lead to violence. a war you can't get out of and can win. the scandal. all of these things are a part of life. because it is very difficult to sort of maintain stability throughout. eight years is a long time to maintain -- maintain stability. you begin to see the frame of in the second term answer lies start out with reagan. we saw it with george w. bush. i think that we saw it -- i think that bill clinton's second term was actually in some ways
8:49pm
better than his first term if you include the first two years which had to be considered a failure by the electors in point is anytime you have your head handed to you as he did in 1994 you're basically not doing what the voters want you to do. but aside from that scandal and what the other thing i say about bill clinton is that he was reluctant to invest political capital. he accumulated political capital because the very brilliantly crafted a center left road of governing. the country was very comfortable and used that to run the country quite effectively. then he did not really try to use the political capital for any major initiatives, and the result was seen as a being a good president but not a great president. that was unfortunate scandal. what the republicans did in the congress on impeachment.
8:50pm
nevertheless, many americans are uncomfortable. they and their president being caught in that kind of a scandal i'm not sure that i would consider the second turn to be better than the first. >> at the end there. what -- one of my regrets, i never got down to do my autographs. the life of jefferson. do you have a favorite presidential biography? >> oh, gosh. i am not sure that i do. it may be marcus james byron roofie of to volume consolidated into one of andy jackson's. i think that maybe my favorite. >> thank you. >> i. i am a social studies teacher here in washington. and i just want to know your thoughts on, you know, as we talk but to terms, what are your
8:51pm
thoughts on all 16-year term. it seems to me as we watch this campaign unfolding millions and millions of dollars that are being spent. secondly, the fact that the incumbents president in his first term needs to start campaigning almost two years before the actual election, what are your thoughts on that? >> i'm not enamored of the area of this six year term, and often . the founding fathers scrabble with this. it's fascinating. they grappled with the whole question of executive power. it was one of the biggest conundrums that they had to grapple with. and they kept putting it off because they could not quite figure out. they knew that they were against unchecked executive power. you had alexander hamilton who gave a 5-hour speech at the
8:52pm
convention. he said, among other things he talked extensively about the presidents. clinton called that the governor. he wanted the governor to be elected by the people. you wanted to be elected by a lecture from the state, and those electors in his view should be elected by the people. so he's kind of democratic in that sense, but then he wanted this got to serve for life. and he actually said that the british system is the most fantastic of perfect system that has ever been devised by the mind of man. want to be as close possible. he wants someone who is elected, but then the king. sorry guys and we have another election. and he also wanted him to have a absolute veto power meaning he could just reject anything that the congress does. that was one point of view. this is totally responding to your question, but i'm getting there. then there was roger sherman, i believe, who basically want to
8:53pm
the president to be no more than at handmaiden of congress. he would be elected by congress and he would have very little powers, no independent power base, and he would be just there to execute the laws that congress would enact. easy to very polar opposite points of view about executive power. view that it would be a handmaiden of the congress. there were not comfortable with that there were not comfortable because they cannot see how there could be a check on congress and abuse of congressional legislative autho. so they basically said, okay, abcasix or seven years. if he could get reelected then congress would run all over and.
8:54pm
it was not until james madison finally began to craft this idea of the independent presidency he could go to the american people independently now. i believe the four year term offers tremendous to build the because the art and people can feel very comfortable about assessing a president after four years. you have to be uncomfortable about whether he has had an adequate opportunity to show us what he can do. secondly, in this referendum presidential politics that i talk about, we don't have to worry too much about the guy in the wings because we only have four years. how much damage can he do? suppose there were six years as suppose that after one year you realize that this guy was incompetence or worse. you got five years. that's going to generate a lot of civic anxiety which can be destabilizing.
8:55pm
i think a four year term, i equate it to come apart me for going into this analogy, it's in the book. i got slammed by the reviewer on amazon on this. i kind of compare it to 90 feet between the faces -- bases in baseball. that gives equilibrium to the game because it just, of the talent you have to have to are running, throwing combat, speak to my an eye coordination, reaction time, all in equilibrium. it is 85 feet would not work. a 4-year term in my view is sort of like that. >> hello. a fellow journalist. i wonder if you're under rating reagan of it. another is the yes, but when you think of the tax reform which is a major and then the whole cold war and the hallway they dealt
8:56pm
with gorbachev and the soviets and their commander, asman. the second question even in this media age, have we learned that we did not know a lot about how badly off he was at gw after he got gw hospital after yes, shot? the potential for manipulation, presidential health is about as bad now as it was when woodrow wilson was president. >> historians are pushing them up, plus the other criterion of getting a seventh elected in this week. >> yes. yes. well, i think you make the very, very good point. i think reagan is going to be included in the leaders of
8:57pm
destiny. he is heading in that direction. and i believe that he is very consequential president. the to present -- to greatest work franklin roosevelt. one was probably the most liberal president and the other is the most conservative. on the question of the secrecy of itself and that's a very good point. i think it did come out during his presidency. it will there were not able to bury it into history and all of it. things were little different. your point is merrill taken. >> side. i respect what you are doing. i just have this feeling that --
8:58pm
certainly you know much more than i do. i have this feeling that this is such a complex topic because i think each president is a product of their particular time in history. you know, to go back to john f. kennedy while i believe he was far from a perfect president's, i saw chris matthews the other night or wherever it was. you know, basically sai that he saved the world from the brink of nuclear destruction. i often wonder, you know, if september 11th did not happen with president bush had just, you know, stayed down on the ranch for four years and run around on or something and then that would have been it? >> and just, i think it is a really, really difficult topic
8:59pm
to sorts of, you know, quantitated. you know, to use your baseball analogy it is just like, you know, who is the greatest first baseman of all time. i mean, i think it is hard. it is hard to really say because of the era in which they played. and while i certainly, you know, it is a topic of great interest. i think that there is a lot involved, and it is really difficult. ..